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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Professor Sulayman S Nyang 1944-2018 Retired professor and international scholar, Howard University, Washington, DC, USA and former Gambian diplomat

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Inna lilahi wa inna elaihi raaji houn. May Allah, SWT grant Prof Sulayman S Nyang Jannatul Firdaus.
We convey our condolences to The Gambia, SeneGambia, the Diaspora and beyond!
I will miss you dearest uncle, Prof Sulayman S Nyang! I will miss the warmth and ever ready radiant smile and excitement you convey, whenever you see your nephew. I will miss your love for me and my family, your guidance, words of encouragement, support and unflinching faith in me. What I will miss most is our engaging exchanges on deep and profound issues and ideas and yes, our beloved The Gambia included, which would go on for hours and sometimes all the way into the wee hours of the night. I always benefitted and left inspired with new insights, newer perspectives, deeper understanding of context and appreciation of one’s “social geography”. He often said to me, with a gentle smile, My jarbaat (nephew), Muhammadou, always know your “social geography”. This wisdom continues to serve me well.

I will forever be grateful for Prof Sulayman Nyang’s guidance and mentorship when I started my academic career at Howard University as a young faculty member and a colleague. I fondly remember periodic Friday consultations, discussions, guidance and learning sessions I benefitted from, throughout my five-year stint at Howard University with Prof Nyang, Prof Mbaye Cham and later on Prof Jabez Ayo Langley. This continued periodically, beyond Howard.

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Prof Nyang was a brilliant scholar with a beautiful, restless mind and wisdom. He was full of energy and enthusiasm. His commitment to his faith, contribution to scholarship, education, enlightenment, creation and sharing of knowledge had no limit or boundary. One of the pioneers of scholarship on Gambian politics and a world-renowned scholar on Islamic Thought, with huge intellectual contributions to the understanding of Islam and interfaith dialogue in North America, the Diaspora and beyond.

He was an internationally respected and accomplished scholar, professor, community leader. He served as a professor and former chairman of the African Studies Department at Howard University in Washington, DC from 1972. He also served his country during our First Republic as deputy ambassador of the Republic of The Gambia to Saudi Arabia and seven other North African and Middle Eastern countries.
Prof Nyang received a master’s degree in Public Administration and a Ph D. in Government from the Unversity of Virginia in 1974. His academic journey and career took him to Howard University, Washington, DC in 1972, where he taught various courses in political science and African studies. He had a brilliant and successful academic career at Howard University, Washington, DC., from where he retired and was honored by the University for his service and contribution to the University. His research focused on Islam, African systems of government, African political thought and public policy. His contribution to scholarship and development of many highly accomplished scholars across the world is immense.

Prof Nyang mentored, supervised, examined and served as dissertation committee member to many PhD students at Howard University and other world-renown universities. My wife, Dr Jainaba ML Saho-Kah, was honoured to have Prof Nyang as an external member of her Rutgers University PhD dissertation committee. I recalled, he also taught some Gambian students at Howard, Mr Tombong Saidy and Dr Madi Touray among them. He continued to supervise as a member of dissertation committees and served as external examiner to many PhD students in the world’s most reputable universities until his retirement in 2016. He was a role model and inspiration to all of his students and those lucky to cross his path.

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Prof Nyang was a co-principal investigator of the Muslims in the American Public Square (MAPS), a research project funded by The Pew Charitable Trust and served as a consultant to several national and international agencies and on the boards of the African Studies Association, the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies, America’s Islamic Heritage Museum, and the Association of Muslim Social Scientists. He served as a director of Muslim Media Network Inc and was an advising scholar for the award-winning, PBS-broadcast documentaries Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet (2002) and Prince Among Slaves (2007), produced by Unity Productions Foundation.

Prof Sulayman S Nyang wrote extensively on Islamic, African and Middle Eastern affairs and was the founding editor of the American Journal of Islamic Studies, now known as American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences. He was also the President of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists.
Prof Nyang’s amazing journey of service to uplift societies and humanity was exhibited in his superb community leadership across continents. He could not say “no” to anyone or any group or organsation that requested his time and/or intellect and presence. He was always willing to share the gift of knowledge bestowed upon him by the Almighty Allah, SWT.

I will forever remain grateful to Prof Nyang for his huge contribution to the University of The Gambia (UTG) from its dawn. He visited during the early years of the UTG during the tenure of the first vice chancellor, Prof Donald E Ekong; and for his continued wise guidance and mentorship throughout my tenure as the first Gambian vice chancellor of the University of The Gambia (UTG). One of the unique and special contributions to the UTG was the donation of his entire rich library collection for the benefit of students and faculty. This invaluable donation, during my tenure, enriched the limited library resources and holdings of the UTG library housed at Gambia College, Brikama Campus.

Prof Nyang’s generosity of spirit and very kind soul, was wrapped with positive energy and enthusiasm. Memory of his gentle and beautiful smile remains to inspire us all. His respect for humanity was always manifested in his interfaces and engagements. He was a fine gentleman and a giant among giants in academe, with an enviable modesty, humility, contentment and empathy. He mentored, inspired and contributed to successful and progressive futures of many diverse peoples in the academy and beyond. A pragmatic pan-Africanist intellectual of repute and excellence, a global citizen in the service of humanity and a rare gem and son of The Gambia, Senegambia, Africa, the Diaspora and the world.
Once again, our condolences to the family, especially his children, Sulayman Nyang Jr and Edna Elisabeth Nyang and the many out there who loved him dearly and continue to be inspired by his humanity and gift of intellect!

“To God we belong, and to Him is our return.”

Prof Muhammadou MO Kah is the former vice chancellor, University of The Gambia and currently, vice president and provost; Professor of Information Technologies & Computing, American University of Nigeria.

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